“Cosa vuol dire ‘father’?”. Juan ci pensa, borbotta qualcosa tipo questo no, quello si, e poi sicuro: “nonno”. “Mariana, cosa vuol dire ‘father’?”. “Mandarino!”Non so di preciso dove sia la tomba di Shakespeare, ma sono sicuro che i colpi che si sentono arrivano da li.

The Practical Guide to Defect Prevention

If you happen to be involved in software development you know how much it costs and you can’t ignore the chances of reducing defect count and thus increasing the cost-effectiveness of the process. So I started reading this book with much interest also because the word “Practical” in the title looked very promising.
I had some trouble to get over the slightly disturbing detail that a book on defect prevention has been written draining experience and making examples from the development of the Microsoft Windows Vista. Despite of this, the book is very well detailed and offers indeed practical approach, though “practical” does not imply that you can easily apply in your working context.
In my workplace software development barely reaches level 2 of CMM and the main management idea is that software development should cost no money and give results by yesterday. In this context (that I feel is not so infrequent) I find quite hard to ask for simulation software or defect classification software when they cost several thousands bucks.
Anyway the overall structure of the book is good in teaching what is the state of the art in preventing software defects, but basically it sums up to go up in the CMM level.
Some points in the book made me raise my eyebrow more than once. For example when praising the qualities of code review the author states that the best time to peer review the code is as soon as it is written, even before it is run through the compiler. The reason is that in this way the maximum number of error is caught by the process. That’s puzzling because a great deal of the same errors may be caught automatically by the compiler itself. So, though the number of detected errors is high, the advantage in doing so seems IMHO quite reduced.
Nonetheless I think this is a good read worth reading, even if most of us fellow programmers won’t see any of those techniques in they everyday software development (I’m not talking with you working at NASA ;-)).

Does God Play Dice? The New Mathematics of Chaos

What if you discover that what you know about math physic is wrong? That would be quite a surprise, but it is what actually is if you haven’t studied chaos theory.In fact I felt quite surprised when I read this book by Ian Steward. Surprised and Enlightened. The book is an educational essay on the math physic history and the most recent advances on the so-called theory of chaos.
Basically the core concept is that the classic equations describing system motions have been developed in the 17th century properly describes only ideal cases. It was thought that the real world effects, being small could be considered negligible.
What the real world insistently taught us in these years is that those small contribution can not be ignored for given enough time they will sum up and will turn you neat and smooth equations into the negligible part. The worst part is that for most system, even after a short time the system becomes unpredictable.
The author is a university professor and does a great job in presenting the matter, there are few equations, but they are thoroughly explained. Still with my aging university math (I studied analysis in 1988) I found I could follow easily the topic.
This book is fascinating under many aspects – historical and philosophical. I also found very enlightening some ideas. For example everyone knows the so-called butterfly effect – a butterfly flaps her wings in Tokio and your weather forecast on the East Coast are totally messed up. Now I always thought about this effect as an annoyance in getting the right weather forecast. But correctly you may see on the other side – it is an amazing mean of control. With so little energy you may control huge phenomena.
I also loved the part at the end of the book where Steward defends mathematicians against the popular belief they are closed in their Ivory Towers without doing anything useful. As he – correctly – points out, they are doing their work (as anyone else on the World) and their work usually has useful applications in everyday life even though they could not happen immediately.
(Italian title: “Dio gioca a dadi? La nuova matematica del Caos”)

Un Tablet per ogni studente

Avevo già letto di questo progetto e lo avevo classificato come una boutade. Invece è successo davvero.In una scuola superiore privata a Saronno (ho queste informazioni di prima mano), il tablet è un iPad 2 che viene fornito in comodato d’uso ad ogni studente dietro il pagamento di 200€ al primo anno e 200€ al secondo anno. Per il terzo anno non è ancora definita la quota (indicativamente 100€) ed il dispositivo andrà restituito.
Sono molto perplesso su questa iniziativa. Innanzitutto non vedo perchè scegliere un dispositivo chiuso e costoso come l’iPad. Un Tablet Android generico, come si può vedere da una rapida ricerca, costa un quinto di un iPad. La scelta di uno di questi dispositivi permetterebbe un risparmio di 300-400€ a pezzo. Cifra non indifferente sia che arrivi dalle nostre tasche (tramite tasse e finanziamento statale) o che arrivi dalle nostre tasche (di genitori di studenti).
L’altra perplessità molto forte è lo studio su un tablet. L’immagine luminosa affatica gli occhi già stanchi, svogliati e distratti di uno studente. Faccio fatica io a leggere quello che mi interessa se è più lungo di qualche pagina. A questo punto sarebbe stato molto più sensata la scelta di un table tipo Kindle equipaggiato con display e-Ink. Un display e-Ink è assolutamente equivalente ad un foglio di carta, inoltre anche qui i prezzi sono decisamente inferiori (da 79€ a salire) rispetto al “gioiello” di Apple.
Certo rispetto ai libri tradizionali sembra esserci un risparmio del 30%, ma questo mi fa piacere solo a metà, visto che risparmio ed efficacia avrebbero potuto essere molto maggiori.
Perchè iPad quindi? L’impressione è che sia fatta una scelta se non conseguente a qualche accordo commerciale sottobanco, almeno “furbetta” che cerca di seguire una moda strizzando l’occhio agli studenti, ma priva di motivi tecnici o economici.

Trousers of Time… Again

It happened again. Last time was 2008, I received an interesting job offer and I had a really hard time in deciding what to do. Since the last days before Summer vacation I’ve been in touch with two friends that offered me a position for a leading a game programming team. For sure it was a once in a life time occasion, considering I live in Italy and considering the kind of workplace they were going to build and the name sponsoring the development.Since September I heartedly decided to join them in this adventure and I even start working for them in my spare time.
Sadly this morning I had to change my mind because we were unable to reach an agreement for the notice period my current employer required.
I feel sad and very dumb since programming videogames is my dream-job and I keep being nit-picking. The last time (and even the time before – not recorded here), hindsight proved me right, but I don’t think this is the case.
Somehow I also feel guilty, because I know I can make the difference, even though my videogame programming knowledge is a bit dated.
What to add more? Well, all the best to you, my friends, go and show the world Italians can make great games, too!